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Session Overview
RN19_01a_P: Academics between Professionalism and the Market
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Christiane Schnell, Institute of Social Research at the Goethe-University Frankfurt
Location: PC.5.28
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 5.

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Europeanisation, knowledge society and the emergence of a ‘new’ professional group

Teresa Carvalho, Sara Diogo

University of Aveiro and CIPES, Portugal

The so-called knowledge society and knowledge economy can be interpreted as a meta-narrative or as a governance tool to accomplish European integration. A chronological analysis of the emergence of knowledge society/economy as a governance tool takes us to the Lisbon Council and to the subsequent creation, at the level of the system of scientific research, of the European Research Area (ERA).

This paper discusses how the assumption of the knowledge society as an ideological integration in the EU and in the ERA resulted in pivotal points to create, in a top-down perspective, researchers as a professional group. Actually, in the framework of the European Charter for Researchers produced in the context of the construction of the ERA, a potential shortage of researchers was identified, along with the lack of appealing and sustainable careers for researchers and appreciation for their work. This initiative encouraged the European states to promote political initiatives in order to foster innovation and research assumed as the best solution to improve economic competitiveness. As a result, policies have also encouraged an increase of PhD graduates.

Based on the analysis of the Portuguese case (based on content analysis of political documents and of national statistics), this paper shows how the transformation of research systems induced an increase in the number of researchers, resulting in the establishment of a professional group that challenges the theoretical framework of the sociology of professions. This group main distinctive feature is the acquisition of high qualifications but, in opposition to what has been defended until now, scientific knowledge does not seem to improve access to privileges neither to collective mobility.

The academy as profession: Processes of social inclusion and exclusion

Brenda Beagan

Dalhousie University, Canada

In the context of a neoliberal knowledge economy, management and marketing principles have proliferated in the academy, with performance indicators, productivity, and accountability as the professional measures of value. At the same time, Canadian universities have seen rising numbers of academics from historically under-represented groups – those marginalized due to race, ethnicity, disability, working class background, gender identity or sexual orientation. While legislation may ease the entry of such groups into the profession, it does little to ensure cultural change within to provide genuine inclusion. This paper examines processes of inclusion and exclusion within the academic profession, based on qualitative interviews with 30 such academics across Canada. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by phone or in person, transcribed verbatim, and iteratively coded through regular team discussions using software AtlasTi.

For some groups, a major concern was normalization and self-surveillance, navigating disclosures of stigmatizing social identities, and constant concern with proving themselves ‘good enough’ academics. Members of some groups entered the social field of the profession lacking valued social and cultural capitals, as well as habitus, which left them fighting a pervasive sense of dis-ease with institutionally encoded rules. For those who were most visibly ‘Other’ overt hostility was surprisingly common, in addition to everyday ‘microaggressions’ that reinforce marginality. Many participants had taken on extra, often invisible, and unaccounted work to promote equity for others, in their research and/or service work. Examining experiences across groups, within the relatively elite context of the professions, highlights similarities and differences in contemporary mechanisms of social exclusion.

The role tensions and new challenges for Russian academic professional in the conditions of neoliberal reforms in higher education system

Roman Abramov

National research university Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation

It raises the question of the role status and professional positions of academic professionals in today’s Russia. My research project was aimed at studying of transformations which the academic profession in modern Russia experience and how members of academic community react to these transformations. The empirical survey was devoted to the examination of the working time budgets of academic professionals in modern Russian universities and scientific organizations in the context of current educational and academic reforms. The empirical evidences for the fragmentation of academic profession budgets in modern Russia based on the changes in working time were showed. Two approaches to the classification of academic staff were used. The use of cluster analysis procedure in application to another group of academic staff helped to distinguish five categories of academic professionals: 1) teachers-researchers, (2) teachers, (3) researchers, (4) universal soldiers and (5) experts. These groups were classified by comparing professional goals, evaluations of working conditions, the university's strategic goals, and attitudes toward publication policy. Different types of academic professionals showed different rates of satisfaction with their working time budgets: those who do a lot of teaching and administrative work tend to be less satisfied that can be explained through the changes in the system of faculty certification in Russia, and response to these changes the part of academic profession presents.Any further conceptualization of a teacher’s life must account for the high level of differentiation in their professional activities. That said, important grounds for this differentiation are various patterns for using work time.

Academic Mobility within the EU - a Voluntary or a Necessary Move: the Case of German Academics in the UK

Elena Samarsky

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

According to German national records, emigration is much more attractive for better-educated, white-collar citizens, with academics displaying the highest migration rate. The case study of academic migration from Germany is intriguing due to the country's financial power, relatively high quality of life, working conditions and high wage rates. The paper uses in-depth interviews with German academics (various career stages) employed across selected universities in the UK. Interviews provide a detailed description of motivations for relocation to the UK, attributes of the “dream job”, as well as general information on particularities of an academic career and institutions in both countries. In the course of the project, it became evident that although securing financial stability was a non-negotiable factor in migration (e.g., work contract signed before relocation) non-pecuniary motivations played a significant role as well. Migration narratives of this group, whose human capital is transferable, and whose expertise is positively evaluated in the UK, are mainly characterised by the search for personal development and career advancement rather than a direct increase in their income. Such records are also consistent in showing that in the case of academics, scientific freedom and independence are the main attributes of a perfect job and are strong motivators. The atmosphere at the potential workplace as well as characteristics of the city also played a role in accepting the job. Moreover, such migration is often depicted as an opportunistic action, mainly described as a voluntary and rather imposed decision. However, findings allow suggesting that such opportunities are rather an outcome embedded in the peculiarities of academia in Germany and UK and their historical and structural developments.

Teachers ahead, organisation of work backlogs? - on conditions for workplace learning & a discrepancy between profession and organisation

Karolina Parding, Anna Berg-Jansson, Susan McGrath-Champ

Lulea University of Technology, Sweden

The aim of this paper is to examine and discuss conditions for competence development among teachers, in relation to choice and decentralisation reforms. The article is based on analyses of some 30 interviews with Swedish teachers, focusing on their experiences of their working conditions.

The findings indicate a discrepancy between how the interviewees describe sought after and current conditions for competence development. It seems to a large extent, the (employing) organisation has the priority of interpretation both in regards to what skills should be developed and how work is formally organised. Moreover, conditions seem to vary extensively between, and even within schools. In other words, the contribution lies in brand new empirical findings, and the fact that these findings mirror the findings from a study carried out some ten years ago. We show how schools, as workplaces, still seem to have some distance to go in terms of organisation of work, as it relates to conditions for competence development in the form of workplace learning.

Our findings may have currency for other professional groups with similar governance-contexts, and teachers in other similar governance-contexts.

A practical implication is that the findings indicate a need for further developing true workplace learning strategies in schools, founded in an understanding of schools as workplaces; further, strategies that should be seen as a core HRM issue as these have the capacity to enhance the work environment and thus increase the attractiveness of the profession.

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